Friday, May 27, 2016

The Wall Street Journal interviews Tracy Chevalier about The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and other Brontë-related things.
Wildfell Hall” was a scandalous bestseller. Why isn’t it as well-known today as “Wuthering Heights” or “Jane Eyre”? It is a great novel in many ways – especially in bringing to light the social issue of wife abuse and the place of women in society – but it is also flawed. The outer frame (Gilbert’s narration) isn’t a patch on Helen’s diary section, which is a magnificent portrait of a marriage gone sour. “Jane Eyre” is more solidly put together – though it has its oddities too (madwoman in attic, Rochester dressing up as gypsy, the whole St John Rivers section). [...]
We never meet the friend to whom half the book is written: Gilbert’s brother-in-law, Jack Halford. Did this disappoint you? I forgot about Jack Halford after a while. His name got mentioned rather like a pesky fly buzzing around, but it didn’t bother me much. I do think that an editor today would have said to Anne Brontë, “Look, drop the framing device, you don’t need it.” Back then there was little real editing. Charlotte Brontë turned in “Jane Eyre” and it was published something like six weeks later. That rarely happens now.
In “Wildfell Hall,” servants play a crucial role, even though some aren’t named. Our heroine, in extremis, seems to depend on her servant, Rachel, more than family or friends. Are such close ties at odds with the Brontë sisters’ experience?  No, it chimes well with how the Brontës were with their servants, especially Martha and Tabitha, who both served them for many years and became almost family members. It’s not a big house, and the sisters all helped with housework when they were home, so their lives would have been entwined with the servants’. [...]
Thank you so much for selecting this fascinating book. Although she tells a very different story, I wondered if Ms. Brontë’s writing reminds you of either of her sisters’? I thought there might be certain resemblances to “Wuthering Heights” in the layered way the story is told, for example, and in the portrayal of nature. I definitely noticed the layered structure of “Wildfell Hall” being similar to the complicated layering of “Wuthering Heights.” And yes, nature – though Anne’s is less obviously moors-based. “Wildfell Hall” is apparently set close to the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth, but it didn’t feel like that to me. [...]
Were you involved in celebrations marking this year’s bicentenary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë? This past year I have been a creative partner with the Brontë Parsonage to celebrate Charlotte Brontë’s bicentennial. Having spent a lot of time there with Brontë aficionados, I’ve discovered that people tend to divide into Team Charlotte and Team Emily – both in terms of loving “Jane Eyre” or “Wuthering Heights,” and also in temperament. (Charlotte = serious; Emily = wild and difficult). But there has also emerged the Third Way: Team Anne. Anne = the Quiet One Who Surprises Everyone. Which is you? [...]
Before heading off to cook dinner – ratatouille – Ms. Chevalier bid farewell to the Book Club: Thanks everyone for taking a leap of faith and reading “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” Anne Brontë’s bicentennial will be in 2020, and you can be smug in knowing that you know who she is! (Brenda Cronin)
Bookishemma reviews the book.

Jane Eyre 2011 is recommended by The Wall Street Journal too.
‘Jane Eyre’ (2011)
Michael Fassbender is Rochester in Cary Fukunaga’s transfixing version of the Charlotte Brontë romance. I recommended this film as recently as last October, but I’m doing so again because Jane is played to luminous perfection by Mia Wasikowska, who stars in another film opening this week, “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” Mr. Fassbender’s lord of the cursed manor is a pulsar pumping out pain that’s relieved, at least occasionally, by an openness to Jane’s beauty. (Joe Morgenstern)
And one more article from The Wall Street Journal today. Writer Yaa Gyasi and her early first reads:
She was a precocious reader, devouring Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë and racing through the young-adult medical dramas of Lurlene McDaniel. (Jennifer Maloney)
A member of The New York Times' staff  is planning on reading a couple of Brontë novels this summer.
Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë. There’s a blurry place in my memory where books I was never assigned overlap with books I was assigned but neglected to read. I’m already 200 pages in, so this is a seasonal aspiration very likely to be fulfilled. I might follow it up with Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights.” Opinions seem to vary, and in interesting ways, about which book is superior. I’d like to join the jury. (John Williams)
Hopefully, the Wuthering Heights edition he picks up won't be the infamous one 'inspired' by Twilight, which by the way has made it onto Bustle's top '16 Most Misleading Book Covers Of All Time'.
2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Occasionally, you can tell what the publishers are trying to communicate, even with a bad book cover. In this case, the message is "I am a Twilight book." Which would be a fine message for a Twilight book, but it just doesn't quite work for Wuthering Heights. And yes, the cover does advertise itself as "Bella & Edward's Favourite Book." Just in case the color scheme didn't clue you in to their marketing strategy. (Charlotte Ahlin)
The Irish Times warns readers of the perils of dating their 'favourite novel’s romantic hero'.
From Pride and Prejudice to Wuthering Heights, the love matches of our favourite characters can help ease some of the anguish our real-life lovers can cause.
But are we really better off jumping into Jane Eyre and snogging the face of Mr Rochester? If you’re seriously thinking of running off into the sunset with a literary love god, there are a few things you really need to know.
You’re probably going to fall ill and/or die
Poor Catherine Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights didn’t even get to snog Heathcliff before she turned up toes. All she had to do was be the focus of Heathcliff’s unrequited love – well, kind of, she did love him back in a way – and she was soon heading feet-first into the local chapel sporting a fetching wooden ballgown. His actual wife Isabella didn’t fare much better either, did she? No sooner had she eloped with our favourite violent psychopath than she was back at the Heights getting assaulted left, right and centre, before finally making her escape. Sure, she manages to live somewhere near London and outwit death for another 12 years or so, but you can’t argue with a plot device – before long she’s croaked and her pride and joy is wrenched from her rapidly cooling bosom to live with his bastard of a father. [...]
He’s likely to have a dark past
Ooh, Mr Rochester, eh? Passionate, brooding, mysterious. Hmmm, you know why he’s acting all evasive? Yeah, it might be something to do with that new loft conversion he’s had done – and you won’t believe what he’s got up there. By the time you get your hands on any leading man, he’s usually lived some sordid life that he’s desperate to escape from, right into your hands. Great, except who wants to start a relationship with someone who needs fixing? You’ll spend half of your relationship helping him confront his demons and the other pretending it’s totally fine that he’s ruined your honour. Jane Eyre should’ve been getting straight on to that local cab firm the minute she found out it wasn’t just old clothes and Christmas decorations he had shoved up in that attic. (The Guyliner)
Express jokes about the drop in the usage of the diaeresis in names such as Zoë and Chloë.
Lady Naïveté Diphthong, head of the Brontë School of Advanced Punctuation at Dunwutherin-on-the-Moors, told us that they had only last week had an application addressed to “the Bronte School” from a “young lady who called herself Zoe.” “We rejected it at once,” she said, “but poor Charlotte, Emily and Anne must be turning in their mausoleä.”
Finally, an interesting reply on the Brontë Society's Facebook page to an inquiry on whether the gate said to have connected the Parsonage front garden and the churchyard really existed:
... the Parsonage's curator Ann Dinsdale tells us that in the Brontës’ time the side gate was further south than it is today and led directly to the backyard, meaning that visitors would walk along the side of the house (where the Wade extension now stands) to get to the front door. There is disagreement about the so-called ‘gate of the dead’ at the bottom of the garden. It’s been suggested that the Brontë coffins were carried through this gate on the way to be buried, but some biographers, including Juliet Barker, dispute this. The gate doesn’t appear in the 1853 Board of Health plan for Haworth, but it is referred to in at least one obituary for Patrick Brontë.
The Lionheart Reads reviews Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye;  Cult Movie Reviews posts about I Walked with a Zombie 1943.


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